The council is threatening the integrity of York’s Shambles by increasing rents at a challenging time for retail, according to traders.
City of York Council owns about 70 per cent of the units on the hugely popular street and retailers say the local authority has increased rents by about 10 per cent – with prices rising to about £100 per square foot.
One trader warned that if the rent hikes continue, Shambles could lose its identity as independent shops are pushed out and short-term tourist stores move in.
Phil Pinder is the chairman of York Retail Form and also runs The Potions Cauldron on Shambles and Cuffs & Co, which used to be on the street but has moved to Goodramgate.
He said the council is increasing rents on Shambles while landlords on Coney Street are cutting rents by up to 40 per cent, adding:
If your rent goes up as a small business, you are taking a pay cut.
“The turnover of businesses is very high – someone’s always prepared to have a go on the Shambles.
“But there are fewer independent shops now and the Shambles will be a totally different street in five years.
‘They don’t understand’
Phil said the government has lowered rates for small businesses for a reason: “I have never known the retail sector to be harder than it is now.”
Last month Phil announced that the bakery on Shambles he runs with Adam Scott, called Pinder and Scott, will shut its doors this month and a new store is due to open at the premises in July.
A spokeswoman for Paul Dawson coin and medal specialist shop, which has been based on the street for more than 30 years, said:
The chopping and changing of the shops, because shopkeepers can’t meet the demands of the payments, is changing the integrity of what the Shambles is supposed to be about.
For a variety of long standing independent traders, these high rent and rates are unachievable to maintain in this current climate.
It would change the street – Shambles is world-famous and it needs to have the stability for traditional shops to stay.
But at the moment shops are swapping and changing after a few years.
The council who put up the rents are not business people – they don’t have to fight for what they have got and they don’t understand the reality of retail.
It’s such a shame – people come from all over to see these special, unusual shops.
The council’s response
The council has a portfolio of properties in the city centre, including many on Swinegate.
The new Liberal Democrat and Green Party-led council administration has said promoting the city’s economy is one of their priorities.
Nicholas Collins, head of commercial asset management at the council, said: “The Shambles is a highly-sought-after commercial location, which continues to attract millions of tourists, and demand for the properties in the area is high.
“The council manages a significant commercial estate, the income from which helps to fund council services.
“Like any landlord, we aim to ensure that we achieve best value for our properties, regularly reviewing market value to make sure we achieve the right balance between rent levels and commercial viability.
“We are always willing to discuss individual circumstances with our tenants and work to support local business.”
In 2017 traders on the Shambles said they felt bullied because the council was charging far more than private landlords for shops of similar sizes.